Column: Rettig’s Final Stand Keeps BC Season Alive
(Photo by Daniel Lee/Heights Editor)
By Asst. Sports Editor, Austin Tedesco
An entire season almost slipped through Chase Rettig’s hands. On first-and-10 with just over seven minutes left, Rettig saw the double move he wanted develop down the field. With Boston College trailing Maryland by four points, he literally saw the touchdown developing in his head as he released the ball. But the ball never got there.
Even as Rettig’s offensive line was illegally holding for dear life, Maryland’s star defensive lineman Joe Vellano broke through and stripped the BC quarterback of the ball forcing a turnover and almost assuredly ending the game. The “Wounded Eagle Warriors”, as head coach Frank Spaziani called them after the game, were about to run out of luck once more. Their record would move to 1-7, the worst start for a BC football team since 1989, as the team and its season slowly faded into obscurity.
When Rettig trotted over to the sideline, though, he was greeted by his defensive players rushing back onto the field with more energy than they’ve had all season. Led by senior middle linebacker Nick Clancy, the defense told Rettig they had his back and that they were going to get a stop. They assured him that they were going to give him one more chance. In their best game of the season, the defensive players were ready to help their quarterback the same way he’s helped them all year.
Clancy had never seen his D-line or his defensive backs come out with more fire. They wanted the game on their shoulders, and all of the weight of not being able to get big stops when necessary rested on the next three plays. Clancy and freshman Justin Simmons stuffed Maryland’s first run. Mehdi Abdesmad wrapped up the electric Stephon Diggs four yards behind the line of scrimmage. Then, on the same kind of third down play that has killed this Eagle defense all year, freshman Tim Joy chased Terrapin quarterback Caleb Rowe out of the pocket for a loss of one.
Rettig had another chance, and this time he wasn’t going to let it through his hands. With 4:45 on the clock and 85 yards to go, he brought his teammates in to the huddle and told them that they’ve been here before. He told them they can do this. Offensive coordinator Doug Martin always tells his players that they should want the ball with only a few minutes left, down one possession. His guys should be confident that they can convert, and this time they were.
After two incomplete passes, Rettig hit his big tight end Chris Pantale for a 13-yard first down right in the middle of the field, right in the space that would stay open almost the entire drive. Maryland’s pressure on the next play forced Rettig to get rid of the ball, but then he hit his go-to receiver Alex Amidon on a comeback route for a 12-yard first down right between the hashes. The clocked ticked down past four minutes.
After an incomplete pass to Pantale stopped the clock, Rettig hit Amidon once again after running back Andre Williams blew up the Terrapins’ pass rush with an incredible block. Williams fumbled on the goal line earlier in the game, but here he was making a statement when it mattered. The clocks wound down past three minutes.
Rettig found Pantale open for a first down in the middle of the field yet again. Rettig has been without his big tight end all season, but Pantale worked his way back from injury and snagged balls for his quarterback at will against the Terps. As Williams tried to provide even more great pass protection on the following play, he bumped into Rettig forcing another fumble that the BC quarterback barely scooped up. The clock scooted under two minutes, and BC still had 44 yards to go.
Rettig worked the Eagles back in to position with another comeback route to Amidon on the left side of the field as he backed away from Maryland pressure, and then he and Amidon connected on one of their best plays all season. Facing a third-and-nine, Rettig was drilled by a blitzing Terrapin coming through the middle of the line, but he got a dart off to Amidon 17 yards down the field before he was smacked onto his back. Sprinting as hard as he could across the turf, Amidon stretched out his entire body and brought the ball in to his chest. Play stopped for a booth review, but the ruling was inevitable. With just under one minute left, Amidon’s spectacular catch was confirmed. BC was still alive.
Rettig got off another short completion to Bobby Swigert before the quarterback lined up in the shotgun for his final throw. The next time he took the field, the Eagles would be in the victory formation.
As Rettig received the snap, Amidon darted across the middle. The wide receiver sprinted to the same area of the field he’d been open all game, the same area he’d been open all season. Rettig threw a play action with some sauce on it in Amidon’s direction, and then the entire right side of the field opened up. Johnathan Coleman, who had made little noise so far, sprinted out on a bubble route as two defenders converged on Amidon. Rettig hit Coleman in stride and then the junior sprinted in to the end zone with a ferocious grin on his face.
Baldwin tried to hug Coleman, but the junior wide receiver was too excited. He knocked the mascot right over as the eagle went for the embrace, and then Coleman turned around and gave his boy Amidon an enthusiastic head-butt.
It would take one more play from the defense, a Spenser Rositano interception, to end the game. After Rositano brought that ball in, it was all over. The Eagles weren’t heading to a bowl game or celebrating a major upset. What they did have to celebrate, though, was finally a pay-off for all of their hard work. A few big plays and one important W to shut up the negativity they’ve heard the past five weeks. For one week, at least, they have a winning streak. And now they can take in a much-deserved deep breath of relief, knowing that this team and this season still matter.